Japanese design books

Red irises on silver background from a Japanese design printed book
‘Irises’ from Shasei sōka moyō by Furuya Kōrin. Unsōdō, Kyoto, 1907. Shelfmark: ORB.30/132

A collection of design and textile pattern books produced in Japan from the 17th to early 20th centuries

About the collection

The collection comprises 50-60 woodblock-printed books and manuscripts ranging from practical manuals and pattern books produced by textile manufacturers and merchants in the 17th and 18th centuries to lavish design books from the early 20th century.

The collection includes works by noted artists such as Kamisaka Sekka (1866-1942), Furuya Kōrin (1875-1910) and Tsuda Seifū (1880-1978). While the majority of the designs cover textiles, a number of other crafts are represented including confectionery, ivory-carving, lacquerware and toys.

What is available online?

Electronic records for the individual works are included in the Library online catalogues Explore Archives and Manuscripts and Explore the British Library.

Many of the works have been digitised with support from the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and images are being made available online. This is a list with links to catalogue records and digitised versions.

This video introduces a selection of works from the collection. 

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

You can consult the Japanese design books in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.

A selection of Japanese reference material is also available in the Reading Room open shelves.

Further information

Hillier, Jack, The Art of the Japanese Book. London: Sotheby’s, 1987.

Jackson, Anna (ed.), Kimono: The Art and Evolution of Japanese Fashion. London: Thames & Hudson, 2015.

Johnson, Scott, Zuan Pattern Books: The Glory Years. Andon, 2015, 100.

Milhaupt, Terry Satsuki, Kimono: A Modern History. London: Reaktion Books, 2014.

Yokoya, Ken’ichiro, Fischbach, Becky (ed.), Zuancho in Kyoto: Textile Design Books for the Kimono Trade. Stanford: Stanford University, 2007.